The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
St. Mary, Aldermary.
About the middle of , on the east side, is the parochial church of St. Mary, Aldermary; elder or aldermary. meaning. by way of distinction, that this church was the oldest church in the city dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is a rectory, and of the peculiars belonging to the archbishop of Canterbury. The foundation was before the conquest, under the Saxon kings. It has had several pious and liberal benefactors, who kept it repaired from time to time. Sir Henry Keeble, lord-mayor of London, in , bequeathed towards rebuilding of this church. And, in , William Rodoway gave towards the building of the steeple, then greatly decayed, the sum of l; and Richard Pierson, about the same year, gave towards the same works, with condition that this steeple, thus to be built, should follow its ancient pattern, and go forward, and be finished, according to the foundation of it laid years before by sir Henry Keeble, which, within years after was so finished, that, notwithstanding the body of the church was burnt in the fire, , the steeple remained firm and good.
This church is now very nobly built at the expense of Henry Rogers, esq.; who generously gave towards rebuilding it, after the same manner it appeared before it was burnt.
It is situated on the east side of ; the north side is concealed from by a row of houses, built close against it; the east and south fronts abut on its own church yard.
This edifice is deserving of peculiar attention, being of the finest specimens of pointed architecture, designed by sir Christopher Wren. The plan, in accordance with the old arrangement, gives a body and side aisles, a square tower of large dimensions, attached to the division from the west of the south aisle, and a small chancel. A deviation from uniformity is observable at the east end, the extreme wall running in a diagonal direction, with reference to the side walls, which, in consequence, form different angles with it, the northern being acute, and the southern obtuse; this discrepancy must have arisen from the architect being confined to the old foundations, a supposition which will derive confirmation from many particulars to be noticed in the present building.
The west front is partially built against. In the centre is a doorway with a pointed arch, the mouldings of which rest on small columns attached to the jambs. A square headed cornice is constructed above the arch, the spandrils being occupied by neat tracery in circles and quaterfoils. On a large slab of black marble, immediately over the doorway, is the following inscription :--
This edifice, long since sacred to the Great and Good God, which was reduced to ashes in the general burning of this city, hath risen again much more stately than before, by the assistance of only, but that a liberal and most devoutly prodigal hand, at an expense in the whole of , and openly acknowledges in this beautiful and ingenious front, that it owes so pious a benefaction to Henry Rogers, esquire, the great grandson and heir to the piety of Edward Rogers, of Canington, knight, and a soldier of Christ in the Marian persecution, A. D. . Blessed be the memory of the just.
Above this is a large window, with a low arch, almost approaching to a semi-oval. This window is made in breadth by mullions into perpendicular divisions, which are subdivided by a transom stone, at about half their height, into stories; all the compartments so formed have arched heads, enclosing sweeps; the head of the principal arch has a circle in the centre, between subarches, enclosing quaterfoils, with tracery in the spandrils; the exterior sweep of the arch is bounded by a weather cornice. The elevation is finished by a pedimental coping. The south aisle has a window of smaller dimensions, but harmonizing in form and detail with the central window; it is made by mullions into lights; each division has an arched head, enclosing sweeps, and in the spandrils are pierced trefoils; the elevation is finished with a rising parapet and coping. The north aisle is partially concealed by a house; it contains a similar window to that last described. From the superior style of the architecture of this front,
|and the general detail of the building, it is evident that the architect copied as closely as his predilection for Italian architecture could permit, the remains of the old church, which, it will be recollected, was finished only years before the fire. The tower is square in plan, having an octangular turret attached to each of the angles. The main structure is made in height into stories; in the western aspect is a pointed arched window, made by mullions into lights, with arched heads, enclosing sweeps; the head of the arch is occupied by sub-arches enclosing upright divisions, and a quaterfoil in the spandril; the story has a window, of lights with arched heads, which occupy the whole of the arch: the story has also a window with lights, made by a single mullion, with a quaterfoil in the head of the arch; the has a window of lights, made by a single mullion, with a circle on the head, filled with quaterfoils uniting in the centre. The south and north faces have no windows in the lower stories, and the eastern face resembles the others, except in the lower story, which is blank; the elevation is finished with a parapet, pierced with open quaterfoils. At each angle of the tower is an octangular buttress, every face of which not engaged by the tower, is ornamented with perpendicular pannels, with arched cinquefoil heads, in tiers, not agreeing with the stories of the tower; the height of each tier decreases as the buttresses approach their close; every tier is divided horizontally by a string course, and, perpendicularly, by slender pillars, or torus's, attached to the angles, which have regular bases, and end in the string course under the parapet; the upper part of these buttresses is in a plainer style; the upright pannels have pyramidal heads, and are, altogether, imitations of an earlier style; all this portion is above the conclusion of the tower, and each buttress finishes in an octangular canopy, crowned with a finial. The old tower of the church, built by alderman Keeble, in , was not destroyed at the fire, and, according to the Parentalia, the lower part was repaired by sir Christopher Wren; the upper part being new built in . It requires no great degree of skill to distinguish between the old works and the new ones; the window in the lower story, and the angular buttresses to the last string course, are old; the most unpractised eye can detect the portion which was rebuilt in the last century, not only from the different kind of stone employed, but by the variation in the style of architecture. This new work comprises the parapet and pinnacles, the ashlaring of the main fabric was probably new done by Wren, when he rebuilt the church.|
The south side of the church is divided in the upright, into stories, by a string course. In the lower story is a doorway, with a segmental arch, below the window from the tower; in this the architect appears to have forgotten the style in which he was building, this introduction being in the modern taste. In the upper story are windows of the same design as that already described
|in the west end of the aisle. Above the windows is a fascia, and the elevation is finished with a parapet and coping. To the piers between the windows are attached pilasters instead of buttresses, which, with the fascia, are very faulty. The clerestory contains windows, corresponding with the aisle in design, and nearly equal in dimensions. The north side is a copy of the south, except in regard to the aislewindows, which are in blank, and the absence of a tower; the eastern ends of the aisles have windows, as in their flanks, and the central division projects before the aisles, allowing of a small chancel: it contains a window, which is a copy of that at the west end of the nave, and is finished with a pediment; in the angle between this and the north aisle is a small vestry, which once had a window in the domestic style of the century, now walled up, and the light admitted by a sky-light. The interior is light and elegant; on each side of the body of the church are pillars, composed of an union of slender columns, with octangular capitals and bases attached to the angles of a square pier, the whole sustaining low pointed arches; the piers between the columns are hollowed, and the hollow is continued to the archivolts, without the intervention of any impost; the detail of the whole is good; the archivolt mouldings are bold, and the whole possesses an antique character; the spandrils of the arches are occupied by reliefs, consisting of shields of the arms of the benefactor Rogers surmounted by cherubic heads attached as corbels to a continued fascia above the points of the arches; the arms are repeated in every entrance, except the arches nearest the chancel, where the following are substituted for them, viz. the see of Canterbury, impaled with a chevron, between crosses, pattee, as many martletts, being the arms of the archbishop, and the half spandril attached to the chancel, has cherubic heads and lilies. The whole of these ornamental particulars are in the worst taste; they are borrowed from Italian architecture, and are executed with an eye to the grotesque. From the fascia above the main arches spring clusters, consisting of small columns, with conjoined capitals and bases, corresponding in number and situation with the main pillars, and engaged with the walls of the clerestory; from the capitals spring the arches of the vaulted roof; this is composed of plaster in imitation of stone, and the architect has evidently kept the splendid roofs of Henry VII.«s chapel, and in his eye ; the pitch of the vaulting is very low, and is partly occupied with fans springing from the small clusters before noticed, and spreading nearly to the middle of the roof; the surface of these fans is overspread with a profusion of tracery in circles, quaterfoils, and other ornaments; in some of which the architect has caught the spirit of his beautiful originals, though interspersed with Italian ornament in a bad taste. The central space between the fans is filled with circular concaved pannels, the soffits enriched with quaterfoils and other tracery. The division covering the chancel is not|
|groined; the soffit is filled with pannels, with a large oval in the style of the circular divisions in the western part of the roof, but surrounded with a crown of thorns: the pannelling shews the deviation of the wall from a right line, there being in width pannels in the north, and only on the south side; each pannel has a trefoil termination, and contains a shield; the arch of this vault viewed either in its longitudinal or lateral sections, as well as that of the aisles, is elliptical instead of pointed, a complete falling off from the architect's authorities; the side aisles are vaulted in a correspondent, but subordinate style, with the centre; the corbels attached to the walls between the windows, and the wreaths of foliage encircling the ovals, here introduced in the place of circular compartments, are in bad taste; the soffits of the ovals are domed, and in the north aisle are made into lantern lights, to make up for the deficiency of light occasioned by the walling up the side windows. The lower story of the tower is approached from the south aisle by an acutely pointed arch, the mouldings sustained on engaged pillars; in the interior angles of the tower are engaged columns; the capitals are concealed by the belfry floor, and the bases are defaced; the staircase is situated within the north-west buttress, and is approached by a low pointed door, within the square of the tower; these several portions are evidently older than the present church. On the north-east buttress, which protrudes into the church, is the following inscription:-- This church was pew«d and wainscotted, at ye expense of both parishes, namely St. Mary, Aldermary, and St. Thomas ye Apostle, and was opened in ye year of our Lord God, .|
The internal arrangement of the church gives a small nave, owing to the erection of a gallery across the church, at the division from the west. This gallery contains the organ, a fine toned instrument, set up in , in a large and lofty case, ornamented with canopies, pinnacles, and crockets. The altar screen is tastefully decorated in the Italian style. In the centre is an arch, between pair of Corinthian columns, sustaining an entablature and elliptical pediment, surmounted by the arms of king Charles II.; the arch contains the decalogue, and the lateral compartments the creed and paternoster; on a pannel now inscribed
was the following inscription :-- This frontispiece, with the rails and frame of the communion table, was the gift of dame Jane Smith, relict of John Smith, knight and alderman of this city, who lies interred near this place.
The altar of marble is or was inscribed, . The screen is painted to imitate various marbles; it is unnecessary to add that it is not in keeping with the
| main structure, and as if it was intended to render the fault in the east wall the more striking, it is not placed parallel with the wall, but at right angles with the flank walls. The pulpit, with the desks, is affixed to a pillar on the north side of the choir. It is not remarkable for any thing but a want of keeping in its embellishments with the church. The font, in a pew in the north aisle, near the west end, is a plain poligonal marble basin, with the following inscription:--
The cover of oak resembles a canopy of the pointed style. The stand for the lord mayor's sword, which, in the generality of churches, is composed of iron, is here a lofty and handsome piece of carved oak, and is affixed to the column on the north side, nearest the pulpit; the stand for the pomel of the sword is a cherub's head, and the whole is surmounted by the royal arms, and is ornamented with the cyphers C. R., the date , and the city arms. The only stained glass in the church, is the coat of arms of the benefactor Rogers, in the east window, encircled with foliage, viz. a chevron, between bucks trippant , crest a buck trippant proper; on the wainscotting of the chancel, the following coats of arms are badly emblazoned, viz. on the south side of the altar, a lion rampant and a chief , charged with a mullet gules, between torteaux. South on a lozenge, the same arms impaled with chevronels, in a bordure the arms of Smith of Middlesex, the shield belonging to lady Smith, the donor of the altar screen. The ensemble of this church, regarded as a specimen of a style almost obsolete in sir Christopher Wren's days, is far superior to what might be expected. Many portions of the detail are closely copied from the original church, and the roof, which is a design of the architect's, has been judiciously composed from specimens of the period when it was rebuilt, viz. the commencement of the century. The architect's aim has evidently been to restore the building, after its destruction by the great fire, to the state it was in before that event; the attempt does him credit, and although his predilections for Ionic architecture, shews itself repeatedly in the structure, the whole, taken together, far surpasses many of the contemptible productions of the followers of the late James Wyatt, which have recently been raised in the pointed style.
says Mr. Malcolm,
|apparently of a brass, may be seen protruding from under the pewing in the south aisle.|
There are several monuments; on the south side of the chancel is enriched with a vase in relief, accompanied with a pelican and a pair of scales, the work of Bacon. It is singular that the only inscription on this monument, is the name of the sculptor; it was erected to the memory of Miss Margaret Bearsley, who died . The absence of the inscription is unaccountable.
The estimate of the present church was about the sum of the amount of the legacy of Mr. Rogers. The steeple was repaired by sir Christopher Wren, when he rebuilt the church, and the parapet and pinnacles were rebuilt in .
The dimensions of the church are as follows: length feet, breadth , height , height of tower and pinnacles .
 It does not appear by what authority the parochial officers presumed to obliterate this memorial of a benefactor to the church. Should this notice meet the eye of the competent authorities, there is little doubt the inscription will be immediately restored.
 The above is the correct blazon, which we have preferred giving, to the faulty daubs which some sign painter, employed by the parish, has substituted for the right arms.
 Lond. Red vol. ii, p. 333.